As parts of the world open up…

,..and schools are still closed or just starting what passes for summer holidays this year, lets take a look at some of the things we should be taking with us. If we are some of the lucky few who manage to get away this summer, be that home or away! It been a while since i have written a travel article for the blog, because we haven’t been away for the last 7 months, but then how many of us have!

Family vacations are a great time to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple things in life. However, a poorly-planned family holiday can be a huge letdown and before we know it, we might end up feeling homesick and eager for the vacation to end. Holidays should be a time of relaxation and even celebration. Part of that comes down to how well you manage to plan ahead, and packing is one of the most important aspects of a well-planned vacation.

So in this post, we’ll be taking a look at how you can pack for a vacation with the family to ensure you’ll have a blast.

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Separate everyday items into smaller bags

When it comes to packing for a holiday, there are probably a bunch of items that you’re going to need on a daily basis such as your phone, wallet, sunscreen, medication, sunglasses and so on. When it comes to these everyday items, keep them in a separate small bag that can be flung over your shoulder, or a pouch that you can attach to your belt. This makes it easier to organize your everyday items and ensures that you always have the things you need for an outing. It also helps you gauge how much space you’re going to need for a day bag.

Every family member should have a little pouch for the things they use on a regular basis. We suggest getting your kids one that can attach to their belt or clothes, or one that can go over their shoulder. Just remember that liquids should be taken out so you don’t get stopped when you go through security at the airport!

You should also consider storing important documents in these smaller bags since they’ll likely be at your side for most of the trip. This can include passports, travel documents, visas, medical records, insurance information and even a copy of your tickets. If you’re travelling with children, then you may want to hold onto their important documents as well.

For electronics, consider a pencil case

Pencil cases are excellent little storage pouches for electronics and cables. If you’re bringing a smartphone and a bunch of charging cables for the whole family, using a pencil case is a smart and simple way to keep a hold of all your cables without them getting lost or creating a huge mess in your bags. Cheap pencil cases can be had for next to nothing, and you can even use ziplock bags if you have them laying around.

Consider the temperature at your destination

It’s also important to look at what the temperature will be like. When it’s summer, you’d be smart to bring some skincare essentials to keep your skin protected from UV rays. You’ll also want to protect your eyes, so see here for some ideas on which sunglasses to buy. Ideally, they need to be able to protect you and your family from UV rays while also being comfortable and sturdy. A cheap pair of sunglasses might not have strong UV protection and are only used for fashion purposes.

On the other hand, if your destination is cold then you may want to bring a couple of extra layers. This comes at the cost of less space in your suitcase and bags, so you should try to fit efficient pieces of clothing in to save space. For instance, base layers and thermal clothes can keep you warm without taking up much space in your luggage, and a simple scarf can help keep the cold away from your neck.

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Emergency items

If you have the space, you should always consider adding a couple of emergency items to your bags. This can include emergency toiletries, extra medication, a first aid kit and even some emergency contact cards that you can give to your children in the event something happens. Nobody wants to think about the consequences of having an accident on holiday, but having emergency items will give you that extra peace of mind to ensure a safe and fun family holiday. Of course with the current virus situation (if you are reading this is Summer 2020) then in, or at least next to that first aid kit make sure you have a good number of face masks for you all as well as hand wash as well. We are going to have to be more careful as we travel now for obvious reasons.

It’s also important that you know how to use those items instead of just keeping them around. Make sure that any medicine you take is suitable for both you and your family, and ensure you bring extras for any necessary medication that you and your family need to take.

Consider making it an educational holiday

Holidays can actually be both fun and interesting, especially if you’re bringing kids. A great source of ideas for places to visit is actually looking at locations that your kids are learning about in their classes. For instance, if they’ve developed an interest for landmarks around the world, or even specific kinds of animals, then planning a trip around an educational experience can actually be a lot of fun.

So in order to pack for this, you’ll need to bring a couple of study essentials. This will mainly include writing instruments such as pens and pencils, notebooks where your kids can record their thoughts and experiences, and perhaps even an instant camera so they can scrapbook the things they learn. You may also want to consider bringing a laptop to make certain tasks easier, such as putting together a lesson plan or schedule, or looking up information related to the study subject.

While online learning might be an extremely convenient way to study things around the world, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing it first hand. It’s a great way to learn about new cultures and get a better view of the world.

Schools are closed, and its looking like they might remain so for a good while yet. It is certainly worth considering keeping developing minds busy while all of us teachers try to work out how to at least start the coming school year online!

Hopefully, this article has given you some helpful packing advice for a safe and fun family vacation. While it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, you shouldn’t underestimate the likelihood that you forget something important while packing for your holiday. It’s always best to be safe, so consider writing up a list and add to it as your holiday date approaches.

Developing Reading Strategies for Struggling readers

Struggling readers are simply individuals who have not learned effective reading strategies. Don’t be too concerned if you aren’t familiar with the term, “reading strategies;” most good readers never had to learn them; instead, they just use them naturally. Struggling readers, on the other hand, have no idea how their friends can finish their work before they make it through the first paragraph. Why is it that their friends are reading “Lord of the Rings” and they are still reading “Magic Tree House” books? How do their friends manage to read those really long and unfamiliar words with ease?

Reading strategies can be organized into two distinct groups: decoding strategies and comprehension strategies.

Decoding Strategies

Without getting into a long debate over whether children should learn to read through phonics or whole language, the fact is that some students need to be taught explicitly phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is basically being able to pronounce the sounds of words and turn them into words that the student knows or has heard. Even if the word is unknown, students with good phonemic awareness can usually take a good try at unknown words. Struggling readers need to be taught the sounds of the language–the phonemes–and to be given plenty of opportunity and coaching in their use. This can be a constraint in a full school timetable so parents should not be afraid to try this at home. Íf you are looking for resources we have loads of free Phonic and reading resources on the site. https://makingenglishfun.com/portfolio/

Some indicators that a student needs explicit instruction in phonemic awareness include: skipping words while reading, “sounding out” words incorrectly, attempting a pronunciation that doesn’t make sense, and avoiding reading. Also lack of confidence and shyness when reading both for native and ESL students. Though it is worth ensuring that all your students have a grounding in phonics.

It is helpful if students are able to recognize and spell a number of simple words. Dolch vocabulary words are great for younger students. For older students, try to get a list of the 1000 most common words in the English language. Phonemic awareness starts with letter sounds. Students learn how to pronounce various combinations of letters, and they learn that letters are not always pronounced the way they should be. Consider a simple example: the word, “the,” is pronounced with a short u sound. Students compare unfamiliar words with words that they know; thus the necessity for a good repertoire of sight words.

A common decoding strategy that is taught to struggling readers is called chunking. If students have developed some proficiency with phonemes, they can begin chunking unfamiliar words. Using their finger, they cover all but a chunk of the unfamiliar word. They pronounce it then move onto the next chunk. Once the student has pronounced all of the chunks, they try to put the chunks together and make it sound like a word they know or have heard. This strategy, again, requires a significant amount of practice and coaching. It also leads onto instruction into syllables and moving from decoding small CVC words to full multi syllable words. https://makingenglishfun.com/cvc-maker-online/

One school of thought considers the ability to decode words a precursor to reading comprehension. After all, if you can’t understand the individual words, how can you understand the whole sentence? Often, a struggling reader will cope with their abilities by getting answers from other students, answering the text explicit questions (e.g. “The girl’s red hair blew in the breeze.” What color was the girl’s hair?), or making excuses for not getting their work done–avoidance behaviors.

Comprehension Strategies

Good readers regularly re-read, predict, infer, conclude, question, compare, contrast; and the list goes on. Good readers don’t usually realize what they were doing while reading unless someone forces them to reflect on it. Struggling readers do few of the things that good readers do. They generally have only one goal in reading–to get it over with. Understanding what was read is called comprehension. Comprehension strategies are those things that a reader does to understand a text.

There is one main indicator that a student needs explicit instruction in comprehension strategies–they are good decoders, but they can’t answer higher level questions about the text. Higher level questions are ones that involve more than just extracting words from the text. For example, a higher level question related to the last paragraph is, “What goals do good readers have in reading?” A reasonable answer would involve contrasting the goal that struggling readers have in reading, using the information about what good readers regularly do, and using prior knowledge or experience.

There are many comprehension strategies that can be taught to struggling readers. Telling a struggling reader to just read it again won’t cut it. They need direct support, explicit instruction, a lot of practice and coaching and many opportunities to experience success. Searching the Internet for reading strategies should garner a description of at least a dozen different tried and true strategies. Following is a brief description of just a few of them.

Books never go out of fashion

Re-Reading

Not to be confused with “just read it again,” re-reading is a deliberate attempt to find information. With the question in mind, students attempt to find relevant sections of the text to re-read. Once they zero in on a relevant section, they usually read a few sentences or paragraphs before and a few sentences or paragraphs after. Sometimes, it is necessary to re-read the entire text to get the desired information.

Predicting

Using titles, pictures, or key words, students attempt to predict the content of a text. When the student reads the text, they make comparisons to what they predicted and what they read.

Re-Stating

This strategy encourages students to look at main ideas. They re-state what they read in a shorter version. Sometimes this strategy involves restricting how long the summary can be. For example, can you re-state the description of predicting in only two words?

The best support for struggling readers is individual and intensive. In my opinion, struggling readers make the most progress when they are given one-on-one support outside of the regular classroom. Individual support allows them to receive frequent and timely feedback on their efforts. Outside of the classroom means that the support is extra-curricular and does not interfere with their regular work. If you are a parent or a teacher of a struggling reader, find out what support is available at your school. Use the terms phonemic awareness and reading comprehension strategies to communicate what your child needs. If your school can’t offer the support, look for commercial services. Even though it might cost money, the benefits will be outstanding; spend the money.

Its why we make these resources and host the site!!

We need a word about online learning

Fifteen years ago, the term online learning wouldn’t have been particularly relevant. The internet was slower, there were no smart phones, and although there were plenty of personal computers around price points made them still difficult to access.

Has much changed in the last fifteen years though. Obviously this has come to the fore due to the global pandemic we find ourselves right in the middle of, but there were signs before this that home based and online learning was starting to become more prominent.

There are still barriers to participation that need addressing, not least the access to equipment and training needs of both teachers and students, but this sudden shift, and speaking from experience this sudden shift back has highlighted both the benefits and pitfalls of moving to online learning.

We will talk about some of these below.

Potential Benefits

Home is were the heart is!

Travelling for both teachers and students is a time drain, and not usually the most enjoyable of experiences. (especially if you live in the city) This time can be better used to prepare lessons or to spend time studying. It will also reduce the pressure on public transport at peak times.

TIme, time, time

For teachers it affords the time to be able to spend time with their own families, and to be able to give more time to lesson planning, though without the interactivity of a real classroom, as schools it also saves on running costs which could be put towards the technology required to implement.

Students get to work at their preferred time, not just following the factory style system of bells and procedure.

Working at own pace and have more time individually with students

In my experience it allowed me to interact on a personal level with students and to answer their questions that there may not have been time for in a classroom stetting. It also allowed students to work at their own pace and to actually start developing other, real world skills, as they completed work.

Drawbacks

Sorry to say this part was way, way easy to write than the benefits section.

Access to Resources

Schools are not all created equal, just like teachers and students! Being able to access the required equipment is something that can be taken for granted in richer environments and some schools and students are and will be put at a disadvantage because of this.

Working alone

There are reasons we still have classrooms and teachers. We all learn from interaction with others, more than just core subjects, but our cultures, morals and societal norms. These softer skills are much harder to pick up through an online quiz or worksheet. Google has been around for years, it will have all the answers but it takes more than just information to develop skills, those are learnt from interactions and guidance.

Home is home, School is school.

Although adults may work from home, and indeed be better suited to do so, students have limited power over their environment and, in my particular circumstance, often don’t have space of their own. I have run online lessons with parents having to take the phone back, the sound of babies screaming, grandparents wandering past asking who i am.

This coupled with the psychology of going to school for students, it is a place where they learn, it is their workplace. To offer no distinction between the two at an early age will of course impact them in later years as well.

Instant feedback works

In a classroom a teacher can quickly change a lesson, or change an explanation based on the reaction of their class. This means their learning can be adapted much more effectively with personal interaction. watching 30 faces on a small screen doesn’t give the same quality of feedback.

Schools are more than schools

A school is of course a place of learning before anything else, but it is also a place where students can socialise, play, test themselves, fail, succeed all ( hopefully) without risk. They have access to adults who prime responsibility is to give them the time they need to be the best person they can be. It is also a safe space for students to have people of trust around them if they need help beyond a learning environment. Sitting in front of a computer screen in a busy house with limitted privacy is just not good enough

Reading back through this and i realise i have been pretty negative on the merits of online learning. Six months ago i think it would have been different, i am a techy teacher, use Padlet, Flipgrid, coding apps, and any new craze i think will work. However i use them to supplement my lessons not to replace them, and with the CoVid school closures i got to experience what it was like for me to actually have to sit at home and try to teach.

Although being home for me was actually lovely, it wasn’t for my students. I’m a teacher, and as with the vast majority of teachers our students will always come first. So with a much more relaxed approach than I normally have with 6 weeks of school left, I walked back in to my classroom and had a much clearer image of the 30 or so beaming smiles and faces than Zoom or my mobile phone could ever give me.

Guest Post: Kosovo Education

We received a request for a Masters Student in Kosovo who would like to share their education system with us all, so this is the structure and make up of their system. It is also our first guest post! So if you would like to see your writing on our site please get in touch on email info@makingenglishfun.com

Kosovo Education Structures:


Primary education is provided for students here. It consists of schooling from grade one through five. This is a requirement by law for all children and students enroll at the age of six. The second component of education is the lower secondary educational system, which is usually for teens around 12 to 15 years of age. It provides education through grade nine. This is publicly funded and free of charge.

From here, students move on to secondary education. This is either professional education or general education. Most students spend three to four years at this level. This level of education is not a requirement under law, though. Most students who enroll in it do so to learn trades and skills that they will use to build their careers and lives with. These schools have a goal to prepare students for vocational work directly out of school or to prepare them to enter university.

Higher Education in Kosovo


Much of the country is rebuilding and reorganizing. This includes the educational system in the country. Universities and educational institutions provide higher education in Kosovo. Both private and public schools are available here at this level. Students are able to earn an associate’s degree, which generally takes under two years to complete in a specialized area of study, a bachelor’s degree, which takes between three and four years to complete, or a masters degree, which can add an additional two to three years of education on. Post graduate education to earn a PhD is also available. Many students enroll in these programs part time, though full time education is still widely available as well.

It is important to note that many of the schools, under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology is being altered. The goal is to align the educational system along the lines of other European countries.

The Best Universities in Kosovo:

  • University of Pristina, located in the city of Pristina as a public university
  • AAB University, located in the city of Pristina as a non-public university

Each of these schools set the requirements for enrollment both at the domestic and the international level. Students generally will need to apply directly to the school to learn about qualifications and costs for tuition. These can range significantly with private schools tending to be more expensive than public universities. International students are welcoming, though, at both.

Travel Visa Requirements
Once you decide to obtain your education in Kosovo, you can apply to enroll in one of the universities. Once you do that, you can obtain the required student travel visa. An application with the Kosovo government, though a consulate or embassy can help students to do so, is required. A fee is paid at this time. The individual must also submit a letter from the school indicating their acceptance into the program of student, as well as information about the student’s living arrangements.

Students will need to show they have financial stability enough to live in the country and support themselves while doing so. The country does not provide health insurance to international students. Purchasing a policy from a third party is often a good idea, though a student who enrolls in a travel package may already obtain this.

Universities in Kosovo are trying their best to try to encourage overseas students to study in Kosovo, in their capacities. There much to be done in this regard, but the interest from international students is there.

For example, at AAB University, there are many interested students from abroad who want to study there. The two main faculties, in which they enroll, are: Computer Science Faculty and English language and Literature Faculty. Local students are very much interested to study abroad, to experience the European dream. This is done by different exchange programs, such as: Erasmus+. Their interest and willing to study abroad is to gain knowledge, come back and implement and serve that knowledge to their country.

Doruntina Alshiqi